ANN ARBOR, Mich. | The Valparaiso softball team may have felt like it was watching a replay of its loss to No. 8 Michigan Friday as it took on No. 18 California Saturday night.
Except, the replay would have been better than the result.
The Crusaders, coming directly off a 7-4 win over Central Michigan, couldn’t muster a single hit off the Golden Bears’ right-hander Jolene Henderson and were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in a 6-0 loss at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor.
“She’s a great pitcher, I give her a lot of credit,” said fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichyama. “She definitely can throw the ball in there and bring some heat. She has a nice off-speed. We just weren’t able to catch up to her.”
Henderson threw her first no-hitter since 2011, striking out seven and allowing only one baserunner on an error.
“I think the defense was what was working today,” Henderson said. “I really could care less about a no-hitter or a perfect game, I just wanted to get the win.”
The Crusaders took on California less than 24 hours after they tallied just two hits off Wolverine pitcher Sara Driesenga.
And much like Michigan did on offense the night before, a rested Golden Bears squad struck early to take away any momentum.
Following a bases-loaded walk to sophomore Breana Kostreba, freshman right-hander Sierra Pico allowed a two-run single from second baseman Victoria Jones to take a 3-0 lead.
Pico was pulled in the fifth inning after she allowed eight hits and all six runs while walking seven batters. She was unable to strike out a single batter.
“I thought we were excited to keep playing,” said Valparaiso coach Jordan Stevens. “That was probably big for them to get on the board, especially for us coming off a nice win to saw that off.”
Valparaiso recorded its only one baserunner when junior shortstop Angie Doerffler hit a hard grounder to Cal shortstop Cheyenne Cordes, who bobbled the ball before throwing it to first base late.
After it knocked in a run in the third inning, Cal added two more in the top of the sixth. Kostreba led off with a double and scored after Pico’s throw to first base went wide during the next at-bat. Left-fielder Khala Taylor hit an RBI single to score the final run of the game.
Even if it didn’t seem like it, the Crusaders improved upon their performance from last year’s NCAA Tournament when it defeated Central Michigan in the earlier game.
After she witnessed the effect that a near perfect game could have, right-hander Taylor Weissenhofer took it upon herself to replicate the effort.
The freshman appeared calmer on Saturday in the circle, throwing a complete game and striking out nine while allowing four runs on 10 hits.
Valparaiso carried a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning before it added three runs to secure the game.
Sophomore second baseman Amanda Wiesnewski hit a three-run home run as a part of her 2-for-3 day.
Her blast would be important, as the Chippawas responded with a two-run double from Trista Cox. But Weissenhofer pitched out of the jam and secured the Crusaders first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
It was a bittersweet day for the likes of Ichiyama and Valparaiso’s four other seniors, but regardless of the exit, the postseason berth inspires high hopes for next year’s young squad.
“It’s definitely tough,” Ichiyama said. “I know that this program has a really bright future, especially with all the younger kids.”
Added Stevens: “I told them at the end, ‘this is exciting that we’re here and this is great for us, but don’t be content.’ If you want to keep putting the program out there … we have to keep coming and competing.”